Josh Mitchell’s late-game heroics earned him Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week honors and the Tigers came away with three points in a home-and-home series against Niagara, one of their most heated rivals.
R.I.T. scored a season-high seven goals in their first program win at Dwyer Arena on Friday and then scored late to force overtime in a 4-4 draw on Saturday.
Matt Garbowsky opened the scoring for R.I.T. on Friday early in the first period with assists from Mitchell and Chase Norrish. Garbowsky then tallied an assist on a Brad McGowan goal later in the period. Max Mikowski added one more in the frame to put the Tigers up 3-0.
In the end, R.I.T. pulled away with a 7-3 victory with additional goals coming from Alexander Kuqali, Danny Smith and Myles Powell. Garbowsky scored one more goal to end the game, assisted once again by Mitchell.
Garbowsky’s goals put him at 21 on the season and back in the conversation for the NCAA’s Division I goal leader. He trails only Union’s Daniel Ciampini, who has scored 23 times. Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder spoke with Sabres.com on Tuesday about the difficulty of stopping Garbowsky, the Tigers’ top scorer.
“He’s one of the more difficult guys in Atlantic Hockey to stop,” Burkholder said. “He plays with an edge, he’s strong, he’s fast, he can shoot it, he’s a playmaker, and he is not afraid to go in the tough areas. He’s the engine and we didn’t have any answers.”
When Garrett McMullan scored an early third-period goal on Saturday, the Tigers appeared to have had a strong hold on the weekend sweep.
R.I.T. was up 3-1 following that goal thanks to early tallies by McGowan and Brad Norrish, both of which were assisted by Mitchell. But then, in a nine-minute in the third period, Niagara scored three unanswered goals to take the lead despite being outshot 21-5 in the period.
Once again, the Tigers’ top line stepped up and helped to avoid a loss.
With 30 seconds to play, Mitchell scored on his own rebound following a feed form Garbowsky. R.I.T. missed a good shorthanded chance to win late in overtime, but the point was salvaged thanks to the determination of the team’s top players.
“Oh yeah, very determined,” Tigers head coach Wayne Wilson said. “We felt good, we were bringing it really hard. We weren’t sitting back on the lead and rope-a-doping or anything like that… I liked the way we played in the third period, I hated the results of it, but I liked the way we played.”
•February 13 @ Holy Cross (7:05 p.m.)
•February 14 @ Holy Cross (7:05 p.m.)
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY PURPLE EAGLES (3-22-3 overall, 3-16-3 Atlantic Hockey)
Niagara snapped its nine-game losing streak with Saturday’s 4-4 tie against R.I.T., but its winless streak has reached 16 games. The weekend started off in the poorest of fashions, getting blown out at home against one of their biggest rivals on Friday.
“We just had a real slow start to the game and obviously, the scouting report on R.I.T. is you need to stop Garbowsky and his line mates. We did not. They capitalized in the first period and we dug ourselves a hole 3-0,” Burkholder said. “We tried to claw back, but they were certainly the better team than us on Friday.”
Stanislav Dzakhov, Chris Lochner and Nick Cecere scored for Niagara in the 7-3 loss. The next night, in Rochester, Niagara’s comeback was fueled by an unlikely source: their fourth line of Stephen Pietrobon, Luke Edwards and Sam Alfieri.
The Purple Eagles found themselves down 3-1 in the third period with their only goal to that point coming from Edwards on the power play in the second.
Seven minutes into the period, Alfieri fed Pietrobon for Niagara’s second goal. Hugo Turcotte scored for Niagara three minutes later and Pietrobon scored again six minutes after that. Due in large part to their fourth line, the Purple Eagles found themselves moments away from their first win since November.
“Every time I put them on the ice, they created momentum for our team,” Burkholder said. “To have that line change the momentum our way was a huge positive for us, and they capitalized.”
The win wasn’t in the cards, of course, with Mitchell’s goal spoiling Niagara’s chance at two points. But they came out of overtime with the draw and Burkholder thought his team had a positive outlook on the night.
“To battle back in that building against a team that was playing really well in R.I.T. It felt like a win even though it wasn’t,” he said.
•February 13 @ Mercyhurst (7 p.m.)
•February 14 @ Mercyhurst (7 p.m.)
CANISIUS COLLEGE GOLDEN GRIFFINS (12-9-7 overall, 11-5-6 Atlantic Hockey)
Canisius couldn’t earn a win against No. 19 Robert Morris, but just about everything else regarding their series with Atlantic Hockey’s top team was positive. The Griffs took the Colonels to overtime twice, falling 2-1 on Friday and earning a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
They held the nation’s fourth-most efficient offense to just three goals in two games and Canisius also outshot Robert Morris in each contest.
Canisius nearly avoided the loss on Friday night. Ralph Cuddemi pulled the Griffs even at one goal apiece early in the third period and the score remained the same until the final minute of overtime.
With 30 seconds left in OT, Robert Morris’ Greg Gibson netted the game-winning goal to spoil Canisius’ shot at a win or a draw. Keegan Asmundson made 25 saves in the loss.
“Well, there’s disappointment that we didn’t get the split because the overtime game comes down to the final seconds. We were in an own-zone faceoff and they made a play,” Canisius head coach Dave Smith said. “But I feel good about the process of our game and I would be a hypocrite if I told you that the points come before the process.”
The Griffs had to come back again on Saturday night, this time finding themselves down 1-0 late in the third period.
They outshot Robert Morris 45-30 on the night, but with two minutes remaining in regulation, they had yet found the back of the net. Then, in desperation mode, Cody Freeman scored on a dish form Braeden Rigney to tie the game 1-1.
Moments before that goal, Smith recalled hearing his players yelling to “stick with the plan,” a testament to their belief in the Canisius system.
“That was an awesome moment because the guys on the bench were pushing. We were pushing hard on the bench,” Smith said. “Sometimes you’re trying so hard to win, you get outside of team environment, a team system, and that goal came from a team system.”
•February 13 vs. Army (7:35 p.m., HARBORCENTER)
•February 14 vs. Army (7:35 p.m., HARBORCENTER)
BUFFALO STATE BENGALS (8-11-2 overall, 4-6-2 SUNYAC)
The Bengals found mixed results in their return to Buffalo State Ice Arena, falling 6-0 to No. 10 Plattsburgh on Friday then earning a 5-3 win over Potsdam the following night.
Coming out of the weekend, the Bengals find themselves in a three-way tie for fifth place in the SUNYAC standings, alongside Potsdam and Brockport.
Things went south quickly for Buff State against Plattsburgh with the Cardinals getting on the board with a power play goal just 47 seconds into the game. Plattsburgh scored twice in each period and outscored the Bengals 31-15. Freshman goaltender Ian Sylves made 25 saves in the loss.
The next night, the Bengals responded well against an opponent that head coach Nick Carriere said left “a bad taste in their mouths” the last time they played.
Buffalo State opened the game with three unanswered goals against Potsdam, two from sophomore Jake Rosen and one from junior Cory Gurski. Potsdam responded with a goal of its own, but Nick Berst added one more for the Bengals in the first period to put them up 4-1 at the end of the frame.
Potsdam scored two goals in the second period to make it a one-goal contest, but Ryan Salkeld took advantage of a turnover to provide some much-needed insurance with a shorthanded score in the third.
Sophomore Mike DeLaVergne made 29 saves in the victory. The Bengals have four regular-season games remaining, beginning next week with a home-and-home series against archrival Fredonia.
•February 13 vs. Fredonia (7 p.m., Buffalo State Ice Arena)
•February 14 @ Fredonia (7 p.m.)